As he walked back onto Court 4 at the Champions Club for a third-set tiebreaker on Sunday afternoon, Trice Pickens fueled his confidence by muttering positive comments to himself.
Playing fifth-seeded Josh Mukherjee for a spot in this morning’s boys singles final in the 12-and-under USTA National Open tennis tournament, Pickens won the first five points of the tiebreaker and went to take the match 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10-2).
Pickens hit a couple of big forehand winners to help him take a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker. Mukherjee then won the next two points before Pickens then reeled off another five in a row to win the match.
“I kept reminding myself that if I win, I get to the finals,” said Pickens, from Cary, N.C. “I tell myself I’ve got to keep my hopes up.”
Pickens will face No. 2 seed Chase Wood, of Knoxville, in the final. Pickens is ranked No. 24 in the country and Wood is No. 25.
“I’ve never played him in a tournament, but I’ve played him in a couple of regional training camps before,” Pickens said. “I don’t really remember how those went — I don’t think they went too well — but that was a while ago.”
While Pickens was charging through his third-set tiebreaker, Wood was on the adjacent court grinding his way to a 6-3, 6-2 win over unseeded Steven Huynh. Despite losing just five games, Wood had to work for the win because each point and each game was a mini marathon.
Both boys semifinals were grueling duels, but that wasn’t the case for the girls.
Third-seeded Abigail Desiatnikov dispatched top-seeded Meredith Roberts 6-3, 6-1, while No. 2 seed Alexandra Sanford, a semifinalist last year, defeated unseeded Isabelle Boulais 6-2, 6-2.
Like the boys finalists, the girls, both from Ohio, are ranked one spot apart — Sanford is No. 30 and Desiatnikov No. 31.
After losing to Wood in the second round Saturday, Hixson’s Luke Plaisted won a round in the consolation bracket Sunday morning before falling to Louis Siegler 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...